LIHUE — While Tom Iannucci was serving as a Marine guard at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, something peculiar happened on Christmas Day in 1987.
At midnight, all the gunfire in the devastated city went silent and upward, where the sky had been filled with the light of tracer rounds and flares, looked suddenly clear.
“I am sure that two days later they were all fighting each other again, but there was this pause,” said Iannucci, who now serves as pastor for Breath of Life Christian Ministries in Lihue. “That is what we try to relay, that there is hope.”
It’s a message that Christian churches on Kauai will share with their congregations over the next two days to reach faithful parishioners and even those who go to church just once a year.
The common thread between all of them, however, is a simple one: celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Iannucci said people sometimes greet each other with, “Happy holidays,” as the politically correct way to say, “Merry Christmas,” but don’t pause to reflect that the holiday is derived from holy day.
Putting the focus on Christ in Christmas, he added, has become almost cliche in services but is key to giving the reason for the season.
“Christians are thankful every day for the birth of Jesus, but the world in general needs one day to stop and pause for a moment of remembering,” he added. “It is an important day.”
This year, the annual Breath of Life Christian Ministries Christmas service will be held at 7 tonight at the Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue and feature musicians and singers will help to round out the day’s message.
“A lot of people don’t know that the Christmas carols we sing are taken right from the scriptures themselves,” he added. “We are going to share that part of the scripture and then sing the accompanying carol that came from it to tell about the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Father William Miller, pastor of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Lihue, said his sermons today and Thursday will reflect on the Scottish roots of church. The Christmas Eve celebration starts at 5:30 tonight and runs until 9.
This year’s services, he said, will have a Celtic theme with musicians and a choir that will perform the Irish Wexford Carol and other songs that lend to the tradition.
Miller will also reflect on his trip to the Irish town of Killarney, which inspired the 1950 song, “Christmas in Killarney,” that has been made popular over the years by a number of artists.
The song, Miller said, is about celebrating the simple, everyday blessings of sharing life’s joys with family and friends.
“That is my message this Christmas,” Miller said. “Celebrating the simple gifts of the season.”
Pastor Peterson Kobeney, a co-pastor with Villamor Galiza at Aloha Marshallese Assembly of God in Lihue, said the church’s Christmas Day service is a very important one in the community and in the Marshallese culture.
“The message we give is to follow the star,” Kobeney said. “The Three Wise Men came from the east and followed the star until it stopped right there where Jesus was born, and in the same way, we must choose to follow Christ all year long.”
The award-winning Marshallese chorale, he said, will lead the congregation in several carols. Prior to the liturgy, a colorful two-line “bits” dance will start in the main entrance with the congregation dancing down the center aisle.
Christmas at All Saints will have a keiki serve at 3:30 this afternoon, a 5:30 p.m. festive Eucharist and a 10:30 p.m. carol prelude and Eucharist. Its Christmas Day Eucharist is at 9:30 a.m.
Kauai Christian Fellowship in Koloa will hold two Christmas Eve services at 5 and 7 tonight in the Grand Ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu.
The service, which offers a modern and traditional message to reach all ages, will feature the church choir, rock band, and videos to keep Christ as the central point of the evening.
“We’re peddlers of hope and mongers of grace,” Pastor Dain Spore said. “We’re not into hard selling our faith, but we do hold out the offer to accept the gift that arrived that first Christmas.”